Sophia ‘Rosamond’ Praeger was a Northern Irish artist, specialising in both sculpture and in illustrations. She was born in Holywood, Co. Down in 1867 to Maria Ferrar Patterson and Willem Emil Praeger, and was the third child of six and the only girl. Praeger showed her passion for art early on, and attended the Government School of Art in Belfast from 1883-88, after which she attended the Slade School in London. She also studied in Paris.
Right: Image from Aesop's Fables (click to enlarge)
Originally engaged with sculpture in a wide variety of media, Praeger went on to become prolific in commercial graphics and illustrations, primarily in children’s books, but also in posters and promotional materials including postcards for the suffrage movement. Back in Holywood, Praeger bought a studio in Belfast. Thereafter, she split her time between sculpture and illustration, the latter proving more remunerative.
As well as illustrating other authors’ books, Rosamond Praeger composed and illustrated twelve original children’s stories and two factual children’s books in her lifetime. What perhaps made Praeger stand out during the period her books were being published was that she managed to extend her ‘New Woman’ ideology to her stories. Her child heroines were granted equally brave and adventurous roles to her male heroes. She followed convention with regard to the late-Victorian and early twentieth century fashions in which her illustrated children were clothed, but the actions and expressions ascribed to the children were modern and unusually expressive for children’s literature of the time. She managed to create mischievous yet empathetic characters, whose faces often told more than the accompanying textual stories. Her use of fantastical and multi-layered creatures further deepened her tales, and the themes she covered in her books ranged from realistic childhood adventures to her own version of fairytale quests.
Despite some of her books going through several print runs, all thirteen of Rosamond Praeger’s books for children are out of print and her stories have submerged, gradually, far from our modern consciousness. Their rarity has, of course, increased their monetary value, but her unique storytelling style is sadly no longer enjoyed by children.
Read more about S. Rosamond Praeger:
- 'An Ulster Sculptor: Sophia Rosamond Praeger (1867-1954)' (pdf) by Catherine Gaynor
- 'Drawing a Fine Line: Irish Women Artists as Illustrators' (pdf) by Pat Donlon
- 'A Populous Solitude: The Life and Art of Sophia Rosamond Praeger, 1867-1954' by Joseph McBrinn (abstract)
This gallery was created and researched by Katie Dickson, postgraduate student on the Masters in Library and Information Science in University College Dublin. Katie’s undergraduate degree was in English Literature and Philosophy in Trinity College Dublin (2005). She worked as an intern in the Dublin City Library and Archive during summer 2012.